Friday, 9 October 2015

Missing my Escape Valve

Not long since my last blog, but I felt inspired to post again having read an excellent article in the latest edition of Runner's World magazine, about Andy Baddeley and his battle with depression.

For those who don't know who Andy is, I should give a brief resume of his running career. He's represented team GB at numerous major championships - he's been a Commonwealth, European and World Championship finalist, made the final of the Beijing Olympics and also competed at London 2012, as a 1500 metre specialist. Although he set a new 1500m PB that year, he had already begun to think about a move up in distance to 5km, and indeed set his PBs for 3km and 5km in 2012 too. On Saturday 11th August 2012, he rocked up at Bushy Park, and ran 5km in 13m48, which remains the parkrun World Record.

"I appreciate you just ran under 14mins, but if you forgot your barcode I'm afraid I'll still have to put you down as Unknown"
So all in all, a bit of a running hero of mine. But then, some time in late 2012, he began to suffer from injury problems, and has barely competed since. His last competitive race was back in September 2013, indeed he posted a sub 4 min mile, showing just how good he was even when not in peak condition: but nothing since. And this long period away from the sport he loves - and indeed, the sport that has been his job for so long - has led him into depression.

He wrote a blog about this on his website back in May 2015, which I hadn't known about until I read about it this week in Runner's World. It's well worth a read - incredibly insightful and very honest. (There's a link at the foot of this post)

He deals with how hard it's been for him, being unable to compete when that's what he does for a living, and for him a lot of the problem stems from a perceived loss of identity. When people ask him what he does, he still says "I'm a runner" - but he states that there have only been a handful of days over the last 3 years when he feels that's actually been an accurate description. However, in the magazine article. he also states he understands that being unable to run can seriously affect amateur athletes too, of all levels.

I find this particularly interesting because one of the main reasons I love running is because I find it offers a great release from the pressures of every day life. I'm not sure I can say that I suffer from depression - if so, I've certainly never had it diagnosed - but I do have low periods, occasionally very low, and on those days a run can feel like a life saver. Running allows me to set myself specific goals, and work hard towards them, giving me a clear focus to get through difficult times. And, without fail, no matter how bad a day feels, it always feels a bit better when I get back home from a run.

Therefore, knowing I would be unable to run for a fair few weeks, I had concerns that I may struggle a bit with my mental wellbeing following the operation. I didn't think not being able to run would lead to depression, but I was worried that if other factors were getting me down, I wouldn't be able to run them off the way I normally would - my usual escape valve was not going to be available to me.
What do you mean, go for a run? I'm absolutely fine...

And, despite initially being quite surprised at how well I'd coped, unfortunately my concerns do now seem to be proving well-founded, and I find myself struggling to get through each day at the moment. In addition to some personal issues I won't bore you with, I've been finding my new job - and specifically, the studying that runs alongside it - much harder than I anticipated. It's taking all my time - long days and working on it most evenings too - and I frequently question whether I'm really cut out for such a demanding position. I won't give up, because it's a great opportunity, and nor am I complaining, but I am seriously doubting my ability, and I know I would feel so much better about myself if I could get out and run each day. Even if just for a couple of miles, which is probably all I'd have time to do at the moment.

This week has seen a bit of a set-back in my post operation progress - the first really, in fairness - but not for any physical reason. I had to rearrange my physio appointment due to an unexpected work commitment, and unfortunately there was no new slot available until 9 days later. The relevance being that this was to be the appointment where I was checked out on the treadmill, and - if all went well - given the go-ahead to recommence running. Despite huge temptation to just start running anyway - after all, I've gone past the 6 week period required to ensure the labram has healed - I've made the sensible decision to wait until the new appointment, and until I'm officially given permission. No point taking a risk at this stage, and setting myself back. And it's just one of those things - but it just seems like a real kick in the teeth at a time when I really need to run!

Running has always given me a sense of self-worth, and an often much needed confidence boost, and in addition it has been at the centre of my social life too for the last few years. For these reasons, and many others besides, I can't wait until my newly arranged appointment next Thursday when - fingers' crossed - my physio gives me the green light. This is only 3 days before the Thurlow 5, which I may or may not now run: I'll probably go for a run on Thursday if allowed, and another on Friday, and then see how I feel. I would expect a certain amount of soreness in the hip joint, but it may well be the lack of fitness that proves to be the bigger issue.

I certainly don't expect to be particularly fast - but if I think I can complete the 5 miles, I will - and it'll be great to get back out there again. For all kinds of reason.

NB: I've only been out of running for 6 weeks. This is nothing compared to what many others have gone through or are currently going through. For anyone reading this who is currently struggling with injury or illness, mental or otherwise, I wish you a speedy recovery. Andy Baddeley still hopes to make the Rio Olympics next year. And I can't recommend his blog highly enough: Andrew Baddeley's Blog


  1. I was so sorry to hear about you sporting injury and subsequent depression. I do not do much running because of a previous back injury. I have torn ligaments. However thankfully, the wonderful work of my local physio practic I am no longer in pain. I hope things work out for you and that you continue to run.

    Emmett Fletcher @ CK Physio

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